I’m not a hoarder. Let me make that clear right away. My car might suggest otherwise, but my actual living space is mostly clean. My husband and I sweep and vacuum and do dishes and laundry and take out the trash and scrub the toilets and all of that. We’re not messy people by nature.
What we are, though, are parents. And kids have a way of turning parents into hoarders, even if we didn’t start out that way. For every broken toy I manage to smuggle into the trash under cover of darkness, there are three legless Barbies and a tangled Slinky lying under the bed – all never played with and yet too precious to consider discarding. Even when I manage to clean and purge the girls’ room while they’re away at their grandparents’, new toys still seem to spring up, Hydra-like, to take their place.
Yes, I am part of the problem: I don’t buy my kids excessive amounts of stuff, but when I see something that I know they’ll like, especially if it’s on sale, I often buy it, even when I know they don’t need more stuff. It’s a compulsion, much like I’m unable to resist putting covers over them when they’re asleep, even though I know they both hate to sleep under covers and kick them off 10 seconds after I put them on.
But if it were just me buying the occasional toy, we’d be OK. What gets us is the crap that seems to stick to kids like magnets, even when we don’t seek it out.
A trip to McDonald’s: a cheap toy
A birthday party at the arcade: a crappy ring, a prank ice cream cone, 50 superballs, an umbrella hat – and then a bag full of party favors
A Mardi Gras parade: Truckloads of stuffed animals and beads and plastic clappers and still more superballs
Holidays at school: Tinsel and Play Doh and puzzles
Book fairs: Seem safe because I love books and can never say no to them and yet somehow my children also come home with novelty pencil sharpeners and scented erasers and posters they have no more wall space to hang
Ruby is now old enough to earn an allowance, which she spends almost exclusively on squishies (if you don’t have a child of the right age to know what the hell a squishy is, be thankful).
And then we have birthdays and Christmas. Georgia’s birthday is in May, so we’re mostly able to integrate her presents into our space, but Ruby’s birthday was yesterday, and so everything for her just comes in one big overwhelming mass of stuff.
I certainly don’t mean for this to sound ungrateful or obnoxious, although I recognize that it sort of does. It’s not that I don’t realize how lucky we are; it’s that the girls barely appreciate what they have because it’s just too much. They have toys they never play with because they’re buried under more toys.
Meanwhile, I have fantasies of living somewhere white and airy and open; the clutter in my house sometimes feels oppressive and always feel stressful, just a low background hum, but it’s there.
There’s a light at the end of the tunnel, though: Ruby mostly asked for money for her birthday, some of which she wants to give to charity and some of which she swears will be put toward expenses for her beloved Camp Point Clear rather than an avalanche of squishies. And for her class birthday party this year, she decided she wants to request presents for a dear family friend who is currently fighting – and winning – a battle with childhood leukemia instead of for herself. I love that she’s thinking of others – and I also love that fewer things will end up scattered all over the girls’ shared room.
I tried to opt for quality over quantity this year for Christmas, getting the kids things they will actually use and wear instead of burying them under dollar store trinkets.
I still have dreams about minimalism – and consider it as a new year’s resolution – but I don’t want to set myself up for failure, and Mardi Gras is just around the corner.
Merry Christmas, everyone. May it be full of joy and free of clutter!